I made a fantastic discovery this week. Just around the corner from Jameson’s, our local Irish bar, I found a heavenly new beer shop that does beer-tasting as well. I used to be a regular visitor to Jameson’s. At least I was until Norwich City got relegated from the Premier League. Now they are in the Championship, there aren’t so many reasons to go anymore.
Anyway, if you turn left down the little alley to the right of Jameson’s (looking at the front of the bar) there is a fantastic little beer shop called Braukunst Laden Koln. As you head down the alley, take the next right turn and it’s just on the left hand side. When you get there, you will be rewarded with a small but perfect little shop, that is literally wall to wall beer. For someone who’s blog sets out to champion local, independent businesses there is nothing better than a local, independent business who shares the same passion for local independent breweries.
The man behind this amazing little beer shop is Wolf. You can see him in the photo, posing with his favourite Mango flavoured beer. Read on to hear more about Wolf’s story and all about the different beers that we sampled during this Thursday’s beer-tasting evening.
Beer-Tasting Every Thursday Evening
We had stopped by Braukunst Laden with a few friends to take part in one of Wolf’s regular beer-tasting sessions. These take place from 5.30 pm every Thursday evening and it’s great fun. When you arrive at the testing you get a ticket for 10 beers. Each beer is a 100 ml tasting of any beer in Wolf’s shop. Wolf always has a selection in the fridge so it’s best to start by grabbing a cold one from the selection in there. You can then pick any beer from his shelves and put it in the fridge for later. Wolf also keeps the crisps (chips) and bread filled up during the evening if you want anything to snack on. For all of this you pay the pricely sum of just 15 Euros. Pretty good value for the chance to taste from such a wide selection of beer. You can read more about Braukunst Laden on Wolf’s website here.
Wolf’s Story – From Chemicals to Nannies
Wolf is an amazing guy and it was great to meet him at the beer-tasting. He originally comes from Bergisch Gladbach, which is a small city just to the East of Cologne. For most of his life he worked as a chemist at the Bayer chemical factory in Leverkusen, where he was part of the team that developed and produced Aspirin. His experience playing around with chemicals means that he is an expert at knowing exactly what 100 ml looks like in a beer glass, so don’t try and sneak an extra helping of beer at the tasting. Having said that we noticed that he wasn’t so worried about exact measures anyway.
Having spent over 20 years as a chemist, in 2006 he decided to do something different with his life. He started an agency called Mary Poppins that provides Nanny services to families in the Cologne area. Over time, his business has expanded to include cleaning, babysitting, catsitting, gardeners and even handymen.
Always keeping himself busy, Wolf has had a number of hobbies over the years. He starting off with gardening, which he then incorporated into his business so it became a bit less of a hobby. He has also been into music and plays various instruments, as well as restoring old English cars. His personal favourite car project has been the full restoration of an Austin Healey.
From Tasting a Classic Old Beer to Opening a Beer Shop
A couple of years ago, Wolf fell in love with beer after a tasting of the original Gose Beer that has been brewed in the town of Goslar in central Germany since the 16th Century. He became more an more interested in beer, lured by the inquisitive nature of the latent chemist within. Last year the shop space next to his Mary Poppins business became empty. He used to sit in the Paffgen Brewery bar, drinking beer with his friend Peter (who owns the Scotia Spirit Whisky Shop) and they would think of different ways to use the shop space next door.
Eventually, with Peter needing a 2nd Whisky Tasting Room and Wolf’s desire to open a beer shop they decided to rent the empty shop and make something truly marvellous out of it’s 2 floors. On the bottom floor is the wine shop, which has an amazing selection of beers from all over the world. There are some great beers from Scotland and other parts of the UK, which I thought was fantastic. There were also some American beers, which was great for our friends Amy, Sunny and Alex who are on the left of the picture above. Naturally, there were also a fair few beers from independent breweries from Germany, the Netherlands and other countries as well. We had a great time beer-tasting with Wolf at Braukunst Laden Koln and we will definitely be back (quite a lot I think).
A Surprise Upstairs – Peter’s Whisky Room
Above Peter’s Beer Shop and Tasting Room there was another surprise. Upstairs were some lovely old Chesterfield sofas and the tasting room for Peter’s Scotia Spirit shop. As you can see, there is a pretty impressive selection of Whisky’s. Normally, the Whisky tasting’s take place on a Friday night but you can find out more about them on Peter’s website here. Having found this place as well, I am sure we will be back for a Whisky Tasting so hopefully there will be the chance for me to tell you Peter’s story as well some time soon.
To The Beer-Tasting
So now to the beer-tasting itself. As I mentioned earlier, I was kind of in heaven at Wolf’s beer-tasting. Visiting an independent beer shop and getting the chance to learn more about different independent breweries was just a perfect evening for me. While I could have tasted 10 different beers, I chose to open a couple of bottles that no one else in the group wanted to drink, so I ended having double helpings of some of them. The choice in Wolf’s shop was really outstanding and I will definitely have to go back on a regular basis to taste them all.
A New App for Beer Tasting – UnTappd
One thing that Wolf showed me was a great new App for Beer-Tasting. It’s called Untappd and its available for Apple or Andriod through their various app stores. Untappd is a way to socially share and explore the world of beer with your friends and the rest of the world at the same time. The app is the brainchild of co-founders Tim Mather and Greg Avola. Tim is from South California and is the technical insipiration behind the blending of technology and a love of beer. Greg comes from New York City and loves both coding and craft beer in equal measure.
Having come up with the idea for the App, the guys developed an trial initial concept in just a day. The app is an amazing collection of beer information, with reviews and all sorts of statistics for beer geeks like me. You can find more information about Untappd on their website here or just download the app and get started. Remember though, genius like this app doesn’t come for free so consider become a supporter of their website to keep the magic happening.
Beer Number 1 – Ferien Lager from the Brau Kollectiv
The first beer I tasted at Wolf’s beer-tasting was a German beer. It was called Ferien Lager, which is brewed by the Brau Kollectiv from the city of Freiburg in the Black Forest. The Brau Kollectiv are 4 different brewers from 3 different continents who ended up in the same German city. It’s a classic pilsner that’s made with organic barley malt from farms and soft water from the Black Forest. The beer’s name in English means Vacation Beer and it’s a perfect light and flavourful beer that would be great with a BBQ on a summer’s day. You can find out more about the Brau Kollectiv and their great beers on their website here.
Beer Number 2 – Hurricane Jack from Fyne Ales
The second beer was the first of two that I tasted from Fyne Ales in Argyll, Scotland. The Brewery is located on a working farm in a beautiful setting on the banks of Loch Fyne in the Argyll and Bute area, which is about 60 miles North of Glasgow. Fyne Ales philosophy is to produce their outstanding range of modern British beers with integrity in everything they do, building on the British Cask Ale tradition. This method makes it possible to pack large amounts of flavour into relatively low alcohol beers.
The First Link to Para Handy
I tasted the wonderful Hurricane Jack. This beer was originally brewed as a taste experiment to demonstrate the interaction of roast malts with hops. It used the same recipe is the same as the Vital Spark beer that I tasted later in the evening, but for Hurricane Jack there were no roast malts added. Hurricane Jack is brewed with Amarillo and Cascade hops, these two hops provide some big citrus flavours to the beer. The beer gets its name from a character in the Para Handy books that were written by Neil Munro for the Glasgow Evening News between 1905 and 1923. The short stories tell the tales of a captain of a Clyde steamer ship that used to service Loch Fyne and the Hebrides in the early 20th century. Hurricane Jack was Para Handy’s outrageous adventurer friend and was said to be “a fine gentleman who had never hit a man twice”. It was definitely a great beer and you can read more about Fyne Ales on their website here.
Beer Number 3 – Light Ness from the Loch Ness Brewery
The next beer on the beer-tasting list also came from Scotland. This time I had another wonderful blonde beer called Light Ness that comes from the Loch Ness Brewery in Drumnadrochit on the banks of the beautiful Loch Ness. The beer was a beautfully delicate, fruity ale that’s made with Galaxy, Columbus and Citra hops. In the glass there was a beautiful straw gold colour and the beer was full of aromas of apple and zesty citrus, which provided a slight bitterness that I love. I enjoyed this beer so much that I decided to have the whole bottle as part of the tasting, which used a few of my 10 glasses up. Then to top it off, I also bought some from Wolf to take home.
A Full Range of Nessie Beer
The Loch Ness Brewery have a great range of beers. I also brought a Hoppy Ness IPA to bring home, which provided me with a wonderful end to my busy weekend. They also have beers called Dark Ness (a Black Stout), Wilder Ness (a Hoppy Amber Ale) and I’m told that they have brewed a curried Porter style beer brewed with a 200 year old Brown Porter recipe with added flavours of korma that they called Ness Un Korma. The Brewery is the brainchild of brothers Allan and Stephen Crossland, who also own the Benleva Craft Beer Hotel on the banks of Loch Ness. The hotel is over 300 years old and is situated in an old church manse. The hotel is famed for its traditional Scottish food that pairs perfectly with their different beers. There are also 6 stunning, individually styled bedrooms in the hotel.
In 2011 they served their first craft beer having added a small 2 barrel plant to the hotel’s pub. Since then, they have built up a great reputation as one of the best breweries in Scotland. Earlier this year, they redesigned their bottles to create a concept that truly harnessed the legend of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster for which Scotland is famous. If you are ever in Scotland and making a trip to Loch Ness you really must stop into the Brewery or even stay at the hotel. You can find more information on their website here. Right now, I will just have to make do with buying more of their beer from Wolf’s shop but we’ll be back in Scotland next summer and can’t wait to visit.
Beer Number 4 – Aufwind Double IPA from the Propeller Brewery
For the next beer I went a little bit darker and decided to try something from Germany. In fact the next beer is from the west of the Nordrhein Westphalia region. It’s made in a town called Bad Laasphe around 100 miles to the east of where we live in Cologne. The English translation of the name Aufwind is Upwind and this is designed to represent the refreshing breeze high above the clouds, shining like the evening sun on the horizon. It has a distinctive orange flavour and is a nice strong beer that also has hoppy notes. It also has fine malty sweetness and a delicate flavour of wild game. It’s almost like someone tried to bottle Duck a L’Orange. I really liked this beer and it came very well recommended from Wolf, who persuaded me to try it. They also have a darker beer called Nachtflug or Night flight in English, which is more of a stout like beer with some amazing berry flavours.
The Bosch Family Brewing Legacy
The Propeller Brewery is the work of Hans-Christian Bosch who is one of the family members of Brauerei Bosch. This small spin off brewery builds on the Bosch families experience honed over 11 generations of beer making. The family started making beer in 1705 and are the 3rd oldest brewery in this region of Germany. Given this is an area that includes Kolsch and Dusseldorfer Alt Bier, that’s pretty impressive. The family still run the brewery, which sits at the heart of the community that it has helped to support for over 300 years. You can find out more about the Propeller Brewery at their website here, in German only I’m afraid but nothing a bit of Google Translate won’t fix. You can also read some more about the Bosch family brewery and their brewing history on their website here.
Beer Number 5 – The Vital Spark – Another Fyne Ales Beer
For the final beer, I was tempted back to the Fyne Ales Brewery whose Hurricane Jack I had earlier in the evening. I was already discussing the relevance of the Hurricane Jack name with Wolf when I spotted the Vital Spark on the shelf. If you don’t know the Para Handy Tales that I wrote about earlier, the Vital Spark is the name of the Clyde Steamer Boat that Para Handy sails around the west coast of Scotland. This was just an awesome dark coloured ale that was a perfect way to round off a wonderful evening getting to know Wolf and this amazing little beer shop. The Vital Spark fits in the gap between stouts and milds. It has a won many awards thanks to its unique flavour that perfectly combines roast hops and berry notes. The lovely flavour comes from the wonderful Amarillo and Cascade hops that are at its heart. It was a perfect way to end a perfect evening. I’m looking forward to my next visit to Braukunst Laden to see what new beers I can discover next time around.